Next book



With the rise of identity theft, celebrity worship, and manipulative social media, this sprightly story of a legendary con...

The absorbing tale of a Jazz Age grifter named Edgar Laplante, who posed as an American Indian and gained extravagant wealth and worldwide fame.

Chronicling the life and entertaining yet fraudulent times of Laplante, aka Chief White Elk, Willetts (Rendezvous at the Russian Tea Rooms: The Spyhunter, the Fashion Designer, and the Man from Moscow, 2015, etc.), in his American debut, brings fresh significance to the ancient profession of the con artist. A vaudeville performer who began his career in traveling medicine shows, by 1917 Laplante was a small-time grifter moving from city to city, posing as Onondagan marathon runner Tom Longboat. As his confidence developed, his game grew, and he effectively dazzled his marks and bled them until his cover was blown. With the law always one step behind, he finally settled into his boldest reinvention: Chief White Elk, revered leader of the Cherokee nation, wounded war veteran, sports celebrity, vaudeville performer, war bonds promoter, etc. Dressed in buckskins and headdress, Laplante was the mainstay of local society pages, and his herculean feats of charisma and charm became unparalleled as his cons grew bigger and more dangerous. After several years, having run the course of his scam in North America, he made his way to Europe, where he began hosting fundraisers for American Indian orphans. By 1924, he was living in the French Riviera, where he met a wealthy Austrian countess from whom he bilked massive sums of money. Touring through Italy at her expense, Laplante hit his ultimate stride when he fell into the graces of the Mussolini regime, which brought him renown across Europe and around the globe. Then, just as he reached his career pinnacle, his fabrications crumbled, resulting in a stint in an Italian prison. Using the “surprisingly extensive paper trail” that Laplante “left behind,” Willetts weaves a fast-paced, intriguing tale.

With the rise of identity theft, celebrity worship, and manipulative social media, this sprightly story of a legendary con artist’s outrageous successes becomes a cautionary tale for the digital age.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-49581-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Next book


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Next book



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview